We conducted a focused ethnographic study in Western Uganda among communities with high human livestock interaction to describe communities’ behaviors, exposures, and attitudes toward fever. Perceptions of illness and associated risk factors were heavily influenced by predominant livelihood activities. As expected, fever is as an important health challenge affecting all ages. The term “fever” indicated multiple temperature elevating disease processes, recognized as distinct pathological occurrences. Malaria was the illness often diagnosed both at the health facilities and through self-diagnosis. Recognition of malarial fever was consistent with a biomedical model of disease while non-malarial fevers were interpreted mainly through ethno-etiological models.

These models are being used to inform education and prevention strategies and treatment regimens toward the goal of improving patients’ outcomes and confidence in the health system. Development of treatment algorithms considering social, cultural, and economic contexts, especially where human-animal interaction is prevalent, should factor zoonotic illnesses as important differentials.